Ahead of what’s usually its busiest time of year due to the annual cherry blossom bloom, High Park will officially be closed by the City of Toronto.
In order to keep people safe during sakura season, the city made the call to close access to the popular park, as crowds were sure to be drawn by the beautiful, blooming flowers.
On Wednesday, Mayor John Tory announced the decision, saying it was a difficult one, and it was to protect public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tory said the decision was based on the recommendations of the Medical Officer of Health.
“I know this closure will be tough for local residents who enjoy High Park year-round and those who look forward to seeing the cherry blossoms every year. This virtual event and the proactive closure is meant to ensure the traditional overcrowding that happens at High Park during the annual cherry blossom bloom does not occur this year to further stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Tory in a statement.
“We are following the advice of our professional public health officials to protect the health and safety of all residents and park visitors. Thank you in advance to the vast majority of residents who will respect this closure and understand this is needed to save lives.”
The park closure dates are weather-dependent and will be announced when the bloom period is determined.
The city said it is working on a virtual walk-through of the blossoming trees in High Park. Residents will be able to experience this year’s cherry blossom season through multiple livestream events and videos, and the details will be announced soon.
The Toronto parl closure follows similar cherry blossom crowd control responses that have already occurred in Japan, Korea, Europe and Washington, D.C.
Park enforcement City bylaw officers and the Toronto Police Service will ensure residents are complying with the closure. The city said violations related to accessing a closed City park can result in a set fine of $750 if a ticket is paid voluntarily, but the maximum fine can be $5,000.
The cherry blossoms area at Trinity Bellwoods Park will be enclosed by fencing with enforcement patrols during the bloom period.
The city also said their enforcement officials and Toronto Police Services may patrol other smaller sites of cherry blossoms in Toronto.
To discourage gatherings, the City of Toronto closed amenities at all parks and playgrounds last month as part of the continuing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.
This includes 1,500 parks in the city as well as, playgrounds, fitness equipment, sports courts, leash free zones, picnic shelters, sports fields, skateboard parks, and other facilities.
All city-led major mass participation events planned for Toronto have officially been cancelled, through to June 30, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The mass cancellation was made in response to the recent provincial emergency order to prohibit organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people.
In March, Sakura Watch, which provides updates on the blossoms every year, said it would be pausing its posts to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Every year, High Park attracts thousands during peak sakura season, which spans across April and May.